Coals to Newcastle, Art to Firenze


Dead on arrival? Work being shoot by Italian photographer.

Coals to Newcastle, Art to Firenze

Taking contemporary art to Florence, reminded me of the British idiom (C 1538), carrying "Coals to Newcastle," a town that annually exported 15,000 tonnes.

On reflection, on two fronts, I'm mad:

Firstly, Italy, and particularly Florence / Firenze is credited as the birthplace of Renaissance art.  

How can a first generation artist like myself complete against generations of skilled artists going back to 1300 's? 

Skills and knowledge have been passed down, polished and refined for over 700 years.  

Compare that to my haphazard and disjointed 40 years of learning about and making art.

Secondly, contemporary art runs a distant last, way, way behind art in Firenze.  

People go to Firenze to look at museums, of which there are almost as many... well... um....Google Maps tells me there are 13,847!  

Each of these Museum has curators, historians, administrators, gift shop staff, maintenance  staff, cleaners, security staff, publicists, and so on.   

Then they employ graphic designers, web masters, architects, printers, and so on.  

So the whole of Firenze's working population has a vested interest in attracting people from the world to come and look at, and talk about, write and photograph, THE PAST.

Once everyone leaves Firenze, they may feel like they are experts about art, but really, it's only approximately the period 1300 to 1800.

Which makes them totally unprepared for contemporary art. 

While the Florence Biennale has been running for nearly 20 years, it is only this year that The City administration has acknowledged its contribution and provided some support.  Up until now it has been living artists from around the world, like myself who have bankrolled this event.  

So...

... back to the coals theme.

In 1927 conversional wisdom regarding Newcastle was overturned. 

Rivals to a US businessman, Timothy Dexter, persuaded him to send a ship of coal to Newcastle.

Luckily for him, just as he arrived the coal makers went on strike,  and he made a fortune.

Since then, the Russians have sold 70,000 tonnes of coal to the Newcastle aluminium smelting plant, as the mines have declined.

It's like the Scots selling half a million pizzas per annum to Italy each year.

So there's hope for myself and 300 other artists exhibiting there this week?











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